Sometimes we wait for someone to give us permission and other times we take the initiative. Waiting for permission is a way of limiting ourselves, not living to our potential.
There are times to wait. We wait at a red stoplight even in the middle of the night when we don’t see any traffic. We might raise our hand before speaking in a group. We wait for our manager or customer to activate a project start. There are times not to wait. For example, seeking peer approval of a group of friends or work colleagues before we start on a goal of personal importance or acting on matters of values and principles.
Take the initiative. Jump in because we think we have the plan or “the answer” or we have confidence in a special skill. Permission implies we are waiting for “authority”. Leadership requires some risk taking. We can lead even if we are not the “top person” by rank. Mastery, experience and wisdom have value.
Some would say it is better to choose to act then ask for forgiveness later. It depends on the situation. Of course, judgement is required. Some actions don’t have easy responses and so we plan, think and even pray. The key point is just being aware of our choices. We must live intentionally and purposefully.
Are you leading or following? Are you timid or do you have courage? What are the items on your Vision or Goals that require initiative?
Do you work better with self-imposed (internal) deadlines or those that come externally? Let’s start with some examples:
- You want to update your resume so that you can apply for a new job (this is internal because no one else is telling you to do it and you have a choice).
- A customer or your manager requires you to complete a project by a certain date (this is external, you don’t have a choice).
- You are planning a big birthday party for someone in your family (probably a blend of internal and external).
External implies little or no control of the situation; you must do it. Externally imposed deadlines usually get done because there is a consequence. The consequence could be positive (an incentive exists) or negative (fear of losing a job or peer pressure).
Deadlines are the pretty much the same as goals. A life skill in goal accomplishment is personal accountability including motivation, planning and discipline (and avoiding procrastination). The insight is to use these same skills for self-imposed goals too.
If the goal is long-term, e.g. successfully transition to a new job by January 2019 then Vision is needed too. Don’t forget to make goals and deadlines SMART: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timed.
An interesting discovery when I looked at the definition of deadline when I found this: “a line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners were liable to be shot”. Now that is a consequence.
Thoughts pop into our head all day long. Some come and go and others linger. Some make us happy and others accumulate into unnecessary stress. Thoughts get compared to beliefs and might turn into emotions. These emotions can work for us or against us…toward our vision and goals or away. It can unfold in seconds or linger for days. Let’s look at the process.
- Thoughts. A thought pops into our head. We are not fully mindful.
- Beliefs. These thoughts get compared to intrinsic beliefs. These beliefs are “truth” for us but not necessarily everyone else because we tell ourselves “stories”.
- Emotions. Emotions instantaneously emerge from these thoughts and beliefs. Some accumulate into unhealthy stress.
- Actions. Finally, we choose to react or respond. Reacting is what we do without thinking and sometimes gets us into trouble. It’s usually better to take a deep breath and respond with your mind engaged.
Here is an example. You agree to host the holiday dinner for the extended family for the first time. Your thoughts go to planning…what to buy and where to sit. You believe (hope, pray) that it is an event that should go without incident. You want to show you can do it with excellence. Emotions emerge as things go slightly wrong…a drink spilled or a casserole burned. You say something (the action) that you later regret.
Pause for a moment to check what you are thinking. Don’t judge it; just acknowledge it. This begins the journey of mindfulness.
Living to our potential includes elements of attitude and aptitude. Put together, they help us soar to new heights in our personal or work lives. It starts with choices: positive thoughts, supportive relationships and new skills and abilities.
Attitude emerges from our thoughts and belief systems. Ideally, it is the positive belief that you can do something and even the thought that you should do something rather than procrastinating. It is also the belief that others are trying their best too. It is the spark of motivation, often hidden from our conscious thought. It can be fueled by a clear personal Vision and related Goals. It can be lost in a moment of despair or crisis.
Aptitude is related to skills and abilities and includes ongoing growth-seeking learning and experiences. There is a desire to get better at something, even master it. You must choose where to focus growth. It may be in managing relationships, leadership or a technical skill. Let your passion guide you.
Both are important, but I have a belief bias that attitude is THE essential ingredient in life and career. Belief in yourself is powerful. Internally, it takes some significant experiences to develop this confidence and belief. Externally, it helps to receive encouragement from others, to have family, friends and managers that believe in you and make an “investment” in you.
Altitude is the outcome and up to you…up, down or flat. What new heights do you seek? Are you in touch with your attitude and aptitude?
Affirmation (noun): the action or process of affirming something or being affirmed; emotional support or encouragement.
Like smiling, giving another person a positive affirmation is a simple yet significant gift. It goes something like this… I see this special talent/strength/value in you. It shows up in what you do and makes you a unique and wonderful person. The way you use this “specialness” is making a difference.
We all need affirmation at some time. People who are hurting regularly need it. All too often, they do not have caring people in their lives who nurture them. Strong positive words offer support and encouragement and they have a lasting effect. It’s a way to show we care and build a relationship.
Be specific; rather than saying “you are amazing”, try “your talent for cooking combined your ability to select food ingredients helps you bring people together in harmony over a special meal”. Emphasize behaviors and skills. An affirmation is an important mentoring skill. It is especially important because it helps another to “know themselves deeply”.
We Zapp when we give “positivity; we Sapp when we take away energy. Choose to say positive things to others 10x more than you criticize. It’s much more effective (and fun) in influencing behavior.
Affirmations can be personal as well (but is not my focus today). It’s the things we say or think to ourselves over and over. The idea is simply to change our beliefs.
“Whether You Think You Can or Can’t, You’re Right” – Henry Ford
We limit ourselves from living to our potential when we place arbitrary boundaries on what we can or can’t do. We say things like “we are not good enough to get promoted” or “I’m too old to learn to play the piano” (or acquire another skill) or “I won’t be a good _____”. We limit ourselves by living within the constraints of a perceived role description rather than taking the initiative to add a new responsibility or project.
Change is disruptive, uncomfortable and even stressful. Pushing personal boundaries is that way too. We offset limits with vision and dreaming. Vision should be bold.
It is our current beliefs about ourselves, others and situations that slow the transition. We must uncover these beliefs and challenge them. Ask if your beliefs are moving you toward your purpose and vision or if they are restraining you. Sometimes we need feedback to see the limiting belief.
My own “significant experience” in this area is recalling the feedback I received from one of my managers. I was told that I should spend more time “managing up” (engaging the next level above me). It was uncomfortable at first but then I got good at it and finally it changed my job performance. I carry this memory into my retirement career as a volunteer.
Where do you limit yourself? Why? Dream, think big, live a bold life…then take a small step every day.
Time management is an important skill but I’ve come to believe that attention management is the bigger opportunity (and challenge). We are blasted with attention options and choices all day long. We sometimes try multi-tasking but this is not effective in a human relationship. We need to be available attentively. How do we do this?
- Choose the relationships that are important and invest in them. Make time for the important people of our lives. Call rather than text, schedule a time for coffee, lunch or a beer or just drop by. Simply show up; this is how we demonstrate to them that they are important (rather than just thinking they are).
- Put away or turn off the distractions. Find a quiet place to be together. Turn off the TV or put away the cell phone. Find a babysitter for the kids.
- Suspend your own problems, just for a short while. Focus on the other person and look them in the eye. Choose empathy and love.
- Practice active listening. Focus on hearing the meaning of their words rather than the words themselves. Nod, paraphrase and ask questions to insure they know we heard their words and meaning.
Choose to intentionally single-task. Use your eyes to see, your ears to hear, your mind to think and your heart to feel. With all senses tuned-in we become focused at a new, deeper level. Be mindful of attention shifts and bring yourself back to your intended focus. Being available attentively requires practice.